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双重麻烦:夫妻店散伙怎么办

Brandon Southward 2014年04月18日

离婚从来都不是一件容易的事情。如果夫妻俩同时还合伙经营着一家企业,分手过程就有可能变得更加棘手。怎样妥善处理、合理分割紧密交织在一起的感情和事业,避免人财两空?专家根据多年的经验给出了自己的建议。

    这里有一个很好的理由敦促我们听取那句古老的格言:不要把工作和生活混杂在一起。那就是,有不少配偶碰巧也是商业伙伴(根据最新的美国人口普查数据,大约370万家企业属于这种情况),一旦感情破裂,由此导致的离婚大战有时候会让企业置于危险境地。查理•摩尔是旧金山火箭律师公司(Rocket Lawyer)的创始人兼执行董事长,致力于提供婚前协议和企业公司化等事务的在线法律指导。因此,他是讨论商业伙伴分手这个话题的理想人选。下面是摩尔就如何减缓离婚对企业的负面影响所提出的一些建议。

    要理性,要学会妥协

    摩尔说:“离婚显然是一件令人情绪非常激动的事情。杂乱无章的离婚过程有可能玷污品牌,同时对企业与消费者的关系产生负面影响。”洛杉矶道奇队(Dodgers)前老板弗兰克•麦考特和妻子的离婚案就是一个备受关注的例子。这起事件进一步削弱了他与球迷的关系,最终还导致他出售了这支棒球队。在合伙人结婚之前——或者当一位商人打算把未婚妻或未婚夫带入企业的时候——摩尔建议他们最好签署一份内容详实的婚前协议,其中包括如何区分各自的财产,商业合作关系的证明材料,继任计划,同时确定双方在公司扮演的角色。摩尔承认,这类谈话往往很难进行,但非常重要,它无异于你在日常生活中给其他什么东西购买保险。“如果洪水淹没企业的可能性达到50%,你就需要购买一份洪水保险。”

    聘请一位独立的估值师

    离婚时,给企业估值是首先会发生的事情之一。如果合伙人持有的公司股权不均等,公司的价值和采用的估值方法——无论估值的基础是资产,收入,市场比较,还是折扣法——都有可能成为双方争执的话题。摩尔认为,聘请独立评估师是避免夫妻双方对公司估值产生分歧的关键所在。他说:“主要所有者倾向于估低企业的价值,而非主要合伙人总想估高企业的价值。”

    了解当地的法律

    评估价值时,法庭往往会观察两种常见的“信誉”,即“企业信誉”和“个人信誉”。摩尔指出,“个人信誉是某一个合伙人的声誉或发挥的庇护作用(有时被称为‘生意名录’),而企业信誉则是企业整体的声誉。”美国各州对这两种信誉的区分方法不尽相同。有些州不作任何区分,同时允许对这两种信誉估值,而许多州把“个人信誉”排除在外,但考虑“企业信誉”。摩尔说,最起码应该了解你所处的法律框架:“为了获得最有利于自己的结果,你的律师和估值师应该就战略和估值方法达成一致意见,同时密切关注目前的案例,以及有可能影响结果的证据规则和法规。”

    要考虑角色转变的问题

    配偶进行商业合作的时候,离婚无疑会导致某一方在公司的角色发生变化。许多情况下,一位配偶可能会放弃他或她在公司的董事席位,以及高管或合伙人身份。所以,想出一个过渡方式是离婚过程不可或缺的一部分。“如果配偶一方有了一个新角色,为防止日后发生争执,就必须明确界定(潜在地限制)他或她在公司的决策权,”摩尔说。“不管你做什么,必须以务实的态度估计你们未来一起共事的能力。”最重要的是,为了不干扰企业的正常运营,正在办理离婚手续的夫妻必须非常仔细地规划未来的工作关系。

    做到公开透明

    在很多离婚案件中,夫妻往往不愿意开诚布公地透露自己持有的资产数量或企业的价值。最常见的隐藏资产方式是偿还虚假债务,或把现金转化为诸如艺术品和珠宝这类“可移动的财产”。“千万不要试图隐藏资产,或者做任何与个性不符的事情,比如花费突然暴增或改变商业模式,”摩尔警告说。“这样做会给法庭发送一个危险信号,有可能让你的公司处于危险境地,或者让你面临巨额罚款。”(财富中文网)

    译者:叶寒

    Here's one good reason to heed the old adage about not mixing business with pleasure: When spouses who happen to be business partners--and there are a lot of them; 3.7 million businesses according to most recent U.S. Census data--divorce, the drama and emotion of the situation can sometimes put the business at risk. Charley Moore is founder and executive chairman of San Francisco-based Rocket Lawyer, which provides online legal guidance on matters ranging from prenuptial agreements to incorporating businesses--making him an ideal resource on the subject of business and breakups. Here are his tips for easing the transition of divorce when business is at stake.

    Be rational and compromise

    "Divorce is obviously a very emotional thing, and a messy divorce can tarnish the brand and affect relationships with your consumers," Moore says. A high-profile example was the divorce of former L.A. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, which further eroded his relationship with the fan base and ultimately led to him selling the team. Before partners wed--or if a businessperson aims to bring his or her fiancee into the business--Moore recommends a thorough prenuptial agreement that includes establishment of separate property, documentation of the business partnership, a succession plan and identifying what the roles each future spouse plays in the company. Moore admits these are hard conversations, but important ones, no different than getting insurance for anything else in your life: "If there is a 50/50 chance you could lose your business in a flood, you buy flood insurance."

    Hire an independent appraiser

    During a divorce, business valuation is one of the first things to happen. When partners are not equal owners or stakeholders in a company, the value of the company and the valuation method used – whether it is based on assets, income, market comparisons and discounts taken – can all be disputed between the parties. Moore argues that hiring an independent appraiser is crucial to avoid a disagreement on the value of the company. "The primary business owner, he or she will argue to lower the value of the business while the non-primary partner will want to raise it," he says.

    Know the local law

    There are two common types of "goodwill" jurisdictions will look at when assessing value: "enterprise" and "personal goodwill." "Personal goodwill is the reputation or patronage of an individual partner in the business (sometimes called a 'book of business') and enterprise goodwill is the reputation of the business as a whole," Moore notes. States vary in how they distinguish between the two types. Some don't make any distinction between the two and allow for both to have a valuation, while many exclude "personal goodwill" but include "enterprise goodwill." The bottom line, Moore says, is to know what legal framework you're working with: "To maximize your results, your attorney and your business appraiser should agree on strategy and valuation methods, while keeping an eye on current cases, evidentiary rules and statutes that could affect the outcome."

    Think about role transition

    When spouses have worked together, a divorce will undoubtedly require a changing of the roles in the company. In many cases a spouse may relinquish his or her position as a board member, executive or partner in the company and figuring out a transition is part of the divorce process. "If the spouse has a new role, it's essential to clearly define (and potentially limit) the spouse's decision-making powers in the company, in order to prevent future disputes," Moore says. "Whatever you do, be realistic about the ability to work together in the business." Above all, Moore believes couples going through a divorce must plan the future working relationship very carefully, so as to not disrupt the business.

    Be transparent

    In many divorce cases, spouses will be less than truthful about the amount of assets they're holding or the worth of their business. Some of the most common methods of hiding assets are paying off fake debts or converting cash into "mobile property" like art, jewelry and hobbies. "Never try to hide assets or do anything out of character, like a sudden surge of spending or changing your business model," Moore warns. "This will send a red flag in court, and you jeopardize your company or face steep fines."

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